Relationship marketing sounds like a complicated concept but it’s actually quite simple. In fact, your company may already be engaged in relationship marketing and not even know it.
While much of marketing revolves around gaining new customers and making initial sales, relationship marketing focuses on retaining current customers and generating repeat business. As the name suggests, you do this by building relationships. These need not be deeply personal relationships, but they must be significant enough to establish trust and earn loyalty.
Relationship marketing is as instinctive as it is technical. Successful relationship marketing campaigns go beyond traditional marketing theory and attempt to treat customers as human. There is no formula that will tell you how to win guaranteed retention. There are only behaviors and habits that should (though not always) ingratiate you to your market.
With that in mind, here are some guidelines to use when launching or maintaining your relationship marketing campaign.
1. Useful information – The key to relationship marketing is to offer information that the customer likely wants and can act upon. Whether you use surveys or purchasing information to get that information, your communications should speak directly to a customer’s needs.
2. Original writing – One of the most overlooked aspects of marketing is language. Businesses are prone to use the same formal language that they use in inter-office communication. The problem is your customers tune out such language—and for good reason. There is debate over the average adult reading level, but be assured that it lies somewhere below the level of professional business writing. You don’t need to “dumb down” your marketing, but feel free to loosen the tie on your messages. Casual language that takes liberties with the rules of college English class shows that you see your customers as humans, not employees.
3. Good memory – Ideally relationship marketing is an effort that lasts for the lifetime of each individual customer. And the only way to retain customers for years to come is if your system can remember your customers for years to come. This means not only tracking the last few purchases, but the entire purchase history. The more historical information you have the more precise your individual marketing efforts will be, increasing the chances of sending the right message at the right time.
To really flex your marketing campaign’s memory, start a birthday email list. A birthday email is always a pleasant gesture to keep your brand at the top of your customers’ minds.
4. Offline follow-up – The internet, email, and group SMS are great tools to use in your relationship marketing campaign, but unless you follow up efforts in your physical location, you risk keeping your customers “at arm’s length.” Demonstrate that customer service is more than words on a screen and you’ll set yourself apart from competitors who are too tech-dependent. Instruct your sales staff to recommend relevant products at the point of sale based on recent purchases. Offer special deals or coupons for birthdays. Ask for customer suggestions and then point out when they’re implemented. Remember the human element in relationship marketing and your efforts will last longer.
You may be doing these things already without realizing it. If so, congratulations! You are engaged in relationship marketing. Otherwise, use these suggestions as a framework for a greater campaign. You will soon find that a retained customer is more reliable and valuable than the one just discovered.